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A Neo-Grünfeld and Grünfeld special this time but first we start with an Anti-Grünfeld.

Download PGN of October '06 Daring Defences games

Anti-Grünfeld 3 f3

Over the last few years I've noticed that this line has been causing problems for the second player. Not only does the Grünfeld fan get tricked out of playing a 'real Grünfeld' he is forced into complications in which he hasn't been doing that well.

However things have changed! Some Black players have learned from various unpleasant experiences and seem to have worked out a satisfactory line of defence in one of the critical main lines. Our Game One features Lupulescu who seems to win with ease as White's king proved to be the most fragile in the face of attacks on both flanks. Here is the position after 11 h5:

The best move seems to be 11...gxh5!, as played. After this the game seems to contain a number of errors (it's a very complicated line!) but the Romanian GM apparently could have won much more quickly, see move 19.


Game Two features Black aiming for a solid game with ...c6 and ...d5 anticipating that White will simplify by exchanging on d5. If White (as in this example) decides instead to gambit the c-pawn then Black (on principle!) should snatch the c-pawn and even hold onto it. Facing the provocative 5 Nf3 Gubajdullin did exactly that but wasn't able to find a coherent way of mobilizing his forces and was soon chopped up.

I have mixed feelings about these pawn sacrifices. I don't believe that they are at all convincing and objectively speaking Black should be doing well, but in practise trying to keep the queenside and centre intact whilst developing with purpose isn't easy.

In Game 3 Koneru outplays Areshchenko in the middlegame with the annoying push of the h-pawn that softens up Black's kingside. This factor combined with the passed d-pawn created problems. What were the reasons that allowed this to come about from a nothing-special opening? I believe that the answer is that Areshchenko managed to eventually equalize but then chose the wrong idea. He had to remain cautious and exchange off White's knight at the earliest opportunity when White's d-pawn wouldn't be a real danger.

This opening variation is playable for Black but he has to play precisely as the d-pawn can often be a problem for the second player.

Bocharov rather optimistically sacrifices the exchange in Game Four and he wouldn't have had enough play if Black had preferred 23...Rac8. Later on White should have won but the whole game was extremely messy and he may have had insufficient time to calculate everything.

The opening line with 13 Qb3 has been successfully employed by Mamedyarov and so Nepomniachtchi's 15...Nd8! (from the diagram after the continuation 13...Nb6 14 Rd1 Qb8 15 Nc3) seems to be an important improvement, that is if the later exchange sacrifice is inadequate as I believe it is. Maybe Bocharov and Mamedyarov won't agree but I think that Black was fine after 18...Nd5, see the details of the game to help you determine your own opinion.

In Game Five Ibragimov delayed the d4-d5 advance and first played the waiting moves 9 e3 and 10 h3. Although the first is well known the second is quite rare and probably not that effective. In the complicated middlegame that followed one's first impression was that Black's initiative was always going to give him the advantage after Miton's strong thrust 22...f4. A closer look reveals some resources for White but I don't expect many to follow Ibragimov and play 13 Nd2 which was the main culprit for White's problems.

In Game Six Vachier-Lagrave shows that it can be easy to beat 2600+ players when they have a bad day! In fact I don't rate White's plan with an early Be3 in these symmetric lines. See in the notes that even the better known Malakhov also was faced with the strong 11...e5! and failed to equalize as White. So even in such benign-looking opening variations the move order is important and that there are opportunities for Black to indulge in dynamic play.

Grünfeld Defence

Humpy Koneru manages to wind herself through the complications in Game 7. Her interpretation of this line suggests that White may retain a pull with her new move 19 Nd5, but in such a wild and complicated line any conclusions must at best be tenuous at this stage. The knight on d5 enables a king walk to the queenside when with an extra exchange plus a relatively safe king White has winning chances.

Areshchenko wins with ease against Kobalia in the Exchange Variation (with 10...Bd7 which seems to be making a revival) as White quickly lost time and the thread! In Game Eight the novelty was 16...b5 (rather than 16...b6) which varied from Areshchenko's game with Shirov, but in neither of these games did Black have problems in the opening. Later on in our featured game the pawn proved to be more dynamically placed on b5 as Black was able to play the nice blow ...b4 to obtain the advantage. Before making any definite conclusions about the viability of the opening however, we'll need to see White trying the superior move 15 Be3 which is analyzed by Sakaev as better for White.

In the Russian System Wojtaszek's experiments with 9 Qc5 (rather than 9 Qb3 which would normally head towards the typical lines) weren't a success:

In two encounters from Lausanne against Vachier-Lagrave Black obtained a good position with at least equality both times. In Game Nine White's bishop pair were ineffective and Black's active pieces and superior pawn structure were more important. However if White had avoided playing the weak 17 d6 the position would have remained fairly unclear.

Till next time, Glenn Flear

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